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30th Anniversary of the Michael S. Azarow ’76 Memorial Scholarship

When Chuck Azarow’s son, Michael, passed away in a car accident at the age of 26, Chuck decided to honor his memory by creating a scholarship at Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City, Michael’s alma mater, in 1980.

As a student at Saint Peter’s, Michael was highly dedicated to community service activities, and was a member of the College’s ski team. A class of 1976 graduate, Michael was also the recipient of a Rev. Victor R. Yanitelli Scholarship while attending the College, an award that was provided during the 1970s to students regardless of their race or religion.

When choosing how to commemorate Michael, Chuck was motivated by the actions of Fr. Yanitelli, who was serving as president at the College while his son was a student, and his aspiration to bring together a culturally rich group of students. The Azarow family was honored that a Jewish student would receive such a prestigious honor from a college that educated primarily Catholic students.

According to Chuck, “Judith, my wife, and I knew we wanted to establish a scholarship in Michael’s name. Saint Peter’s was the logical choice because of the educational opportunity the Yanitelli Scholarship offered to Michael.”

In 1980, Chuck and Judith established the Michael S. Azarow ’76 Memorial Scholarship, an endowed fund, in order to keep his son’s legacy alive at the College and support future students, as Saint Peter’s had supported Michael. Chuck, who served as a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, wanted the scholarship to help students who were enlisted in the Marine Corps before pursuing higher education.

Chuck worked diligently to arrange the Azarow Scholarship and its provisions with John B. Wilson, the former vice president for advancement at Saint Peter’s College (who is now the president of the Independent College Fund of New Jersey), as well Rev. L. Edward Glynn, S.J., who served as the College’s president at the time. In order to fund the endowment, Chuck and Judith also conducted three art expositions sponsored by their friends, the proceeds of which benefited the Azarow Scholarship.

"Judith and Chuck are fond of Saint Peter’s, interested in the education of students, and committed to assisting veterans – and through these activities honoring the memory of Michael. That is what makes this scholarship special," noted John.

When deciding which students would receive the scholarship, Chuck also sought out the advice of his close friend Gary Schweikert, who is the vice chairman of the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, a group that has led the recruitment of students for the Azarow Scholarship; the Foundation also provides financial aid for children of active-duty Marines killed in the line of duty. “Saint Peter’s should be proud that it has a scholarship available to students who served our country – there are few schools that come to their aid so quickly,” said Gary.

This year, as the College celebrates the scholarship’s 30th year, the 2010 recipient is Jay Geldziler, a Hoboken resident who will enroll in his third semester at Saint Peter’s this fall. Jay, a former employee at the Federal Reserve in the Law Enforcement Department in New York City and a marine, started his Saint Peter’s College education in the fall of 2009. Expecting to graduate in May 2012, Jay has taken seven classes so far, and he is thrilled to enroll full time this fall.

To date, the Azarow Scholarship has awarded more than $170,000 to 15 students. After graduation, past recipients achieved successful positions in top organizations such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Goldman Sachs and the Federal Bureau of Investigation; another recipient attended graduate school at Oxford University. Jay, who is a public policy major, will be seeking a public service position upon graduation.

“The Azarow Scholarship is absolutely great. It’s taken a huge financial burden off of my wife and me, especially because we will be having a baby girl next month.” The scholarship is particularly helpful to Jay, because he was only partially eligible for educational provisions under the federal government’s Post-9/11 GI bill, or the Yellow Ribbon program, due to the timeline of his discharge from the Marine Corps.

Jay is already paying forward the generosity he has received from the Azarow Scholarship, which has enabled him to receive a Jesuit education. Demonstrating the Jesuit ideal of acting as a “man for others,” Jay volunteers three times a week at St. Matthew’s kitchen for the homeless in Hoboken.

“I didn’t know what to expect coming back to school; everyone has been so helpful with everything – faculty, enrollment services; someone is always there for you. It’s been a great experience,” said Jay with a broad smile.